Apple didn't announce the iPhone 12 at its September event — but it may have dropped a clue about what to expect (AAPL)

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Apple's anticipated iPhone 12 was noticeably absent from the company's typical fall product bonanza on Tuesday. While Apple didn't make any mention of what's next for its iPhone lineup, it may have provided a clue through its newly revealed iPad Air.

Apple unveiled a completely redesigned iPad Air that comes with a new edge-to-edge screen — much like the iPad Pro — new color options, and other upgrades. Perhaps most importantly, Apple revealed that the new iPad Air would run on its new A14 Bionic chip, the processor we're likely to see in the next iPhone. The new tablet will be launching next month starting at $600.

Given what we might know about the next iPhone based on reports — and Apple's history of putting its latest A-series chip in its new iPhones in the past — it may be fair to say that the iPad Air has provided an early look at what could be coming in the iPhone 12.

The A14 Bionic chip

Apple iPad Air fall event A14 bionic Touch ID buttonApple

Apple has been putting its custom A-series chips in the iPhone ever since it introduced the A4 back in 2010. That chip debuted in the iPad before making its way to the iPhone 4. It's perhaps only fitting then that 10 years later in 2020, Apple is unveiling its latest A-series chip in the iPad Air ahead of its expected iPhone unveil next month.

If Apple's history isn't evidence enough, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman — who has a spotless track record of reporting on unreleased Apple products — also reported that the iPhone 12 will be powered by the A14 chip. 

The A14 Bionic uses 5-nanometer process technology, Apple's first chip to do so, enabling it to pack nearly 40% more transistors than its 7-nanometer A13 chip from last year. What this means in plain English, according to Apple, is better performance and more power efficiency. 

The iPad Air's new design and colors

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If you've been following the reports and rumors that have emerged about the iPhone 12, you probably know that it's expected to get a design overhaul. The next iPhone is said to get flat, stainless steel edges and rounded corners much like the iPad Pro, according to Bloomberg.

The iPad Air got a similar makeover. You'll notice that it has same level, smooth edges found on the iPad Pro and older iPhones like the iPhone 5. It's a notable departure from the curved edges found on the current iPhone 11 lineup. That leaves the question of whether the iPad Air's refreshed design can be seen as a precursor to the iPhone 12's expected new look.

There's another big physical change coming to the updated iPad Air: new color options. In addition to more traditional colors like silver, space gray, and rose gold, the iPad Air also comes in green and sky blue. That echoes the bright, pastel-like colors Apple has used for the iPhone 11 lineup.

We have no idea what color options Apple will offer for the iPhone 12. The only clue we've heard so far are reports from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and leaker Max Weinbach suggesting one model might come in navy blue.

Still, seeing the new iPad Air with its flat steel edges in bright new hues similar to those of the iPhone 11 provides some hint at what a colorful new iPhone could look should the rumors turn out to be true. Just take a look at these concept renderings from Swedish tech site svetapple.sk, and you'll probably notice some resemblance to the new iPad Air. 

Other iPad features that are rumored to come to the iPhone 12

iPad Pro 2020Apple

These aren't the only characteristics we may see in the iPhone 12 that have already debuted on the iPad. Apple's next iPhone is expected to get ProMotion — the feature that boosts the screen's refresh rate up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling — which the iPad Pro already has. That's according to the YouTube channel Everything Apple Pro.

The iPad Pro's Lidar sensor, which should enable better performance in augmented reality apps, is also said to be coming to the "Pro" version of the iPhone 12, according to Bloomberg's Gurman

We'll likely have to wait until October to know for sure, which is when Apple is expected to debut its iPhone 12 lineup. 

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